How the New York Jets Became the Team We All Love to Hate
Sorry, New York Jets fans, but we hate your team.
By "we," I don't mean Bleacher Report—we have some great Jets writers who love the team dearly. I don't even mean media as a whole, because it's clear that a certain "Worldwide Leader" can't get enough of you crazy so-an-sos.
No, I'm talking about sports fans everywhere that don't don't give two flying fahrvergnugens about the latest Jets' drama that is sure to dominate our consciousness for at least a media cycle or 20. (Watch out, New England Patriots, because you might be next.)
Why do we hate the Jets so much? It isn't personal—that's for sure. Most fans outside of rival AFC East cities have no real natural rivalry with the team. This isn't a hatred born from years of fierce competition like Duke-North Carolina or Michigan-Ohio State.
No, we're just sick of hearing about the Jets, and it's driven us to a seething hatred burning with the fire of a thousand suns...or, something like that.
The Media Market
It makes sense, doesn't it?
The Jets share the biggest media market in the United States with the Giants. Although the Jets and the Giants play in two different conferences, they don't exactly love each other. So, you've got half of the New York media market who get inundated with Jets' nonsense even though it's the Giants who, you know, win football games.
Being in New York has some other consequences for the other 30 NFL cities as well. Sitting on the sixth floor at 125 West End Avenue in good old New York, New York, are ESPN's New York Studios. While Bristol, Conn., is the well-known home of ESPN, New York is its second home. So, with shows in New York, and anchors living in New York, and executives flying in and out of New York, maybe New York is a big part of ESPN.
If it feels like I'm saying "New York" a bunch of times, you clearly haven't watched SportsCenter in a while, because they put that last paragraph to shame.
That's the problem. The Jets do have a lot of people that care about them in New York, which happens to be a really big city with ESPN executives, media analysts, anchors, etc., sitting smack dab between Central Park and Upper New York Bay. This creates a false sense of importance for the New York sports teams that the rest of the country quickly learns to hate.
You know who else has a lot to do with TV programming? Advertisers. Find me an advertising company without, at least, a satellite office in New York, and I'll show you an advertising company gone the way of Don Draper's kidneys.
So, the New York Yankees are playing well? Half of SportsCenter gets devoted to them. The Yankees playing poorly means at least 45 minutes. The New York Knicks made the playoffs? Let's partition off half of the afternoon for an impromptu special. Can we get Spike Lee? Oh, they didn't make the playoffs this time? Let's run a miniseries about their troubles over the next five nights and have Mr. Lee direct. Wait, we have to do it on the nights that a Brooklyn Nets game isn't on.
While New York is certainly big, the rest of the country actually dwarfs it in comparison. This fact surprises almost anyone who has anything to do with television. It isn't just ESPN, either. It's the executives who beg for Jets games to put in prime time when they have a captive audience that clearly wants to be a part of Gang Green as much as they want gangrene.
For the Jets, It All Started in 2009
I'm sure that, somewhere, there are die-hard Jets haters from the old days—people with creepy, eyes-hollowed-out pictures of Joe Namath or some weird misplaced hatred for Curtis Martin. Those people, though, are few, far between and should be committed.
No, for the most part, the hatred for the Jets started, at first, because no one cared.
In January 2009, the Jets were an also-ran in the NFL. Former head coach Eric Mangini was fired after bringing them to the very pinnacle of mediocrity. Quarterback Chad Pennington used what was left of his arm to try to deliver the ball to wide receivers like Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery. If that sounds like something you'd be able to sit through without the aid of Clockwork Orange-style eye clamps, you're either a sick individual or a Jets fan, which is really...never mind, too easy.
There were some punctuated moments of caring about the Jets before 2009—Brett Favre's infamous issues, Herman Edwards' random screaming, a playoff appearance here and there. Really though, the Jets didn't garner much hatred or even much attention overall.
Then, that fateful January, Rex Ryan was brought over from the Baltimore Ravens to be the head coach of the Jets. His first big move as head coach was moving up and drafting his franchise quarterback, Mark Sanchez, with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
With their next pick, a third-rounder, the Jets picked up their Curtis Martin replacement, franchise running back Shonn Green.
That year, the Jets made the playoffs and went all the way to the conference championship. With Ryan's defense in place, cornerback Darrelle Revis made his first All-Pro team. Linebacker David Harris got All-Pro honors as well. Defensive End Shaun Ellis went to his second Pro Bowl—six years after his first.
Things were going well.
This is clearly a team worthy of shoving down America's collective throat, right?
2010 Didn't Help Much Either
Oh, the honeymoon phase. It is with great fondness that I remember thee.
2010 was another successful season for the Jets and another great offseason. This time around, cornerback Antonio Cromartie was brought over to bookend Revis, and wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes were set to be Sanchez's dynamic duo in his second year.
An influx of veteran talent to any playoff team would draw headlines in almost every city. In New York, it was as if ancient prophecies had been fulfilled. No one could seem to get enough of how freakishly amazing the Jets would be that season.
Watch out, 1972 Miami Dolphins, the Jets are comin' for ya!
Ryan even put his Super Bowl prophecy in writing—"Soon to be champs." This was a season of destiny! Or, you know, maybe not, as the Jets lost in the AFC Championship Game again.
You could say they only missed by, like, 12 inches...which is...*snicker*...a foot!
Ah, foot jokes. Yes, Jets fans, I have to bring them up. For those not in the know, Ryan was revealed as a foot fetishist in December of 2010. Before you scream that this is a personal matter and shouldn't be news, I agree. However, the matter was covered as news not only because it was interesting, sordid and weird, but because it was the Jets and Ryan, who had become a personality in the league.
Let's face it, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera can be into whatever he wants; it's never making headlines.
It became a punchline, along with the failed Super Bowl predictions of 2010 and 2011 over the course of the next couple of seasons. Soon, it became readily apparent (at least to those not owning green jerseys) that Sanchez wasn't really the answer at quarterback. The defense could only drag him kicking and screaming into the playoffs so many times.
Edward and Holmes would quickly fade out of the picture. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress would be brought in, fresh from prison, to try to make a difference...nope. The offense was a joke punctuated by off-the-field issues and in-fighting.
The honeymoon was over in a big way. The media was no longer covering the team as a contender, but as a trainwreck.
The Tim Tebow Effect and Aftermath
Have no fear, a savior was on the way!
Jets fans, today, have no love lost for quarterback Tim Tebow. For the most part, this was a failed gambit by a front office that is now gone. Tebow, however, brought the full bear of the media circus to town. People who couldn't care less about football or foot fetishes care about Tebow. He's a walking press conference. If he dares to take his shirt off for some sprints, it's covered on major networks by breathless anchors.
He was a backup quarterback. The Jets still gave him a massive press conference. Don't try to pretend that this was some mistake. Tebow and his three-ring carnival of coverage were not foisted upon the Jets like some unsuspecting rube. No, they planned for this all to happen.
They just didn't plan on a 6-10 record.
The didn't plan on butt fumbles, Wayne Hunter's turnstile impersonations or getting shut out 34-0 by the San Francisco 49ers. They planned on the media coverage, but they didn't plan for it to be so negative. They planned for people to care about Tebow but apparently didn't plan on actually using him.
Now, Tebow is a Patriot (who, as said before, have some problems of their own brewing), and the Jets are waging a quarterback battle between Sanchez and rookie passer Geno Smith. Ryan is still the head coach, though I think he's learned to control his preseason predictions a little better. The defense is now missing Darrelle Revis but added some more talent in the offseason and could keep the offense in contention like the old days.
With Tebow in New York, the media frenzy reached a peak that has seemed, at the moment, to have dissipated with his departure. The remnants can be felt as backup running backs get arrested and the arrest gets covered by outlets like CNN, Huffington Post, and TMZ. (I promise you that Mike Goodson's arrest would not have mattered, in the slightest, to non-sports media outlets if he were still an Oakland Raider.)
The Jets really have only three roads from here. One, they can continue down their current path of negative and laughably forced media coverage. As long as Ryan is the brash and vocal head coach, Sanchez is the GQ-coverboy quarterback and the team is still located in New York, there will be media that loves to cover their failures.
Or, the Jets could, you know, win. Obviously, they would go down this road if it were their choice—every team would. Still, the best way to quell negative media coverage is by giving the media and fans positivity to focus on. Moreover, success breeds team character and strengthens the gaps in the locker room. Loose lips sink ships, yes. But the Jets' ship has been taking on water for so long that no one cares any more. Put the ship back on course and some problems will take care of themselves.
Finally, the nuclear option is the polar opposite of success. Remember a time when we didn't really care about the Jets? Casual observers may remember it as the '90s. Remember when Curtis Martin was tragically underrated—even in New York? Remember the time when guys like Rich Kotite and Al Groh coached the team?
The only way the media will stop covering the Jets is through a period of sustained terrible play. The butt fumble didn't become a national punchline because it was a blooper. It became a national punchline because it gave a nation of Jets haters some much-needed catharsis after years of having the Jets foisted upon us.
If the Jets go 6-10 again this year and 6-10 the next—maybe sprinkle in an 8-8 season or two over the course of a losing decade—if the Jets fire Ryan and cut Sanchez, then that team can butt fumble all it wants, and no one will care. Certainly, I'm not advocating that the Jets lose on purpose, I'm just saying that it's the only way the media coverage on this team is going to die down in any meaningful way.
Until then, the media is going to cover the successes and failures of the Jets just like they do the Yankees, Knicks, Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Lakers. Until then, the Jets fanbase will suffer and be insufferable as it deals with fans of the 31 other teams that "just don't understand what they're going through."
Until then, the Jets will continue to be the team we all love to hate.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.
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